After going nine straight games without allowing more than 21 points to an offense in a game, the Philly defense is picked clean by Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Vikings to the final count of 48-30.
Simply put, the Eagles could not stop the Vikes from driving the ball down the field on them. This is most surprising seeing as how the number one and two running backs for Minnesota were sidelined due to injury (Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart). Additionally, the tight end position for the purple and gold was very thin without Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson. The team had to rely on the work of tailback Matt Asiata and tight end Chase Ford. Asiata bowled his way into the end zone three times (tied for the Viking franchise record) and Ford made a couple of huge catches on the day for 55 yards. Greg Jennings, the former Packer, had a coming out party with a career high eleven catches. Those grabs went with 163 yards receiving and a touchdown (a 57-yarder). Jarius Wright caught four balls for 95 yards as well. Quarterback Matt Cassel just did a great job getting the ball down the field and allowing his receivers to fight for a catch. More times than not, this strategy paid off, and the scoreboard reflects this.
If you want a solid stat to show how dominant the Viking offense was in this game, look no further than their third down conversion numbers. The team converted 8/13 of their third down situations. They only had to punt twice in the game, and accumulated 29 total first downs. Those 29 first downs were a season high (their previous high was 28, which they did twice, however those games went deep into overtime). Minnesota just did a good job staying on the field, and this did not allow the Eagles to mount much offensive momentum of their own.
LeSean McCoy, fresh off of his franchise high 217 yards rushing (on 29 carries), only ran the ball eight times for 38 yards. Both of these marks are season lows for the NFL’s leading rusher. It says a lot when the team’s leading rusher was the 6’5”, 243 pound Nick Foles. His five carries netted Philly 41 yards, including his career long run of 21 yards. Foles did manage to throw for a career high 428 yards in this game, along with three touchdowns. He, himself, accounted for 469 yards of all purpose offense. Of course, the four sacks he took ate away at that yardage however it is encouraging to see that he can pick up yardage in chunks when he has to. A few of his throws were a bit off in the game, but the coverage by the Minnesota secondary was very good, so Foles did well enough to complete 30 passes. He also spread the ball around nicely, hitting seven different receivers on the afternoon. It is clear that the offense is wide open for him and there is no play that Chip Kelly is afraid to call in to his quarterback.
It is important to note that DeSean Jackson had a bit of a sideline spat with position coach, Bob Bicknell, and Jason Avant during the third quarter of this game. Despite his ten catches for 195 yards (and a touchdown), frustration got the better of D-Jax. This came after Nick Foles threw his second interception of the season. He lobbed the ball up the left sideline into traffic and Jackson was unable to make a play on it. At this point, the game was 24-9 in favor of the Vikes and nothing had really gone right for Philly. At this point, you could tell it was not the Eagles day as the team had to revisit the headaches they suffered earlier this season when the defense had struggled so badly.
So all and all, it was a tough loss for the Eagles, but not a back-breaker. They are still in total control of their own destiny and still have the chance to wrap the division up before Week 17 hits. However, things will not be easy next week when the Bears come to town. Chicago is going to be desperate for a win as they are in a complicated division race of their own. A win next week for either team will go a long way to deciding who makes it into the tournament and who will be watching it from their homes. One thing is for sure, though: the Eagles will need to play better on defense than they did in this game. You will not win too many games giving up 40+ points and 400+ yards in this league. Offensively, Philadelphia has proven that they can play with just about anybody. However, as it was early in the year, the biggest weakness of the team is its defense. It was exposed in this game and now they know what needs to be done if they hope to make some noise in January this season. Meanwhile, the Vikings look to ruin the playoff hopes of the Bengals next week in Cincy. It is as the old saying goes: misery loves company. Cincinnati is in good shape to make the playoffs, but the Vikes can really mess their position up with a win. Furthermore, they can really kill the Lions’ dreams in two weeks when they host them in the final game at Mall of America Field.